Distance learning has become a reality in a remote village in Uttar Pradesh. The girls of Mijwan’s Kaifi Azmi School are getting English lessons from the US through Skype. "With the world microcosmed on the web, it was vital that they learn English, but getting tutors was difficult. So we appealed for help through our website and the Ann Foundation made contact. I met Anna and her young volunteers in New York. They were impressed with the work we were doing and offered to take English speaking and personality development classes using the technology. We got hold of computers, cameras and generators and the classes started," says an elated Shabana Azmi.
The actor, present at two classes, is touched by the fact that the young teachers who are Indian professionals working in the US, wake up at 2.30 am to take lessons during Indian time. "Since the children couldn’t understand what Paras (teacher) was saying, I wrote down notes for them in English and Devnagri and as I distributed them around, the brightness in their eyes at the idea of getting lessons from America brought tears to my eyes," she says emotionally.
Right now, the girls are learning the basics of tenses in a way that’s fun and involves who they are and their aspirations. A technologically challenged Shabana is impressed at how quickly the girls have grasped the concept of Skype. "It’s because empowerment had already begun at the grassroot levels. Abba (Kaifi Azmi) would have been so proud," she smiles, adding that if the experiment is successful, they will take the classes to the four neighbouring villages where four ‘chikankari’ centres have opened, so more girls can become English literate and tap the market with their craftsmanship.
Thanking her friends from the film fraternity for their support through two fashion shows, she adds that the ‘light Mijwan’ campaign took off yesterday. During the Greenathon, Shabana had made an appeal for Mijwan on NDTV. In seven minutes, the funds had come in and over the next two weeks, solar lighting will come to her Abba’s village.